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25 September 2010

Don Draper vs Serena van der Woodsen

My Ben Affleck phase was over ten years ago. He was the main reason I saw Armageddon so many times (although not the only reason for multiple viewings of Shakespeare in Love) and the only reason I saw Forces of Nature at all. I quite enjoyed Good Will Hunting although I thought it was a little overrated--at the time, most teenage girls were either a Ben fan or a Matt fan and I was definitely in the former camp. By the time Pearl Harbor rolled around and then State of Play, he wasn't enough to draw me in. I liked State of Play a lot but not because of Ben.

When I saw the posters for The Town a few weeks ago, however, I was hopeful--and not just because Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall and Jeremy Renner were in the cast. I knew Affleck Major would be acting as well as directing but I didn't realise he would be playing the anti-hero. Anyway, the boy did good. The Town is an action/heist thriller set in the Charlestown neighbourhood of Boston, which is described at the beginning as a 'hood filled with wannabe bank robbers and other assorted lawless cronies. Funny: when I was last there, it seemed perfectly nice and the only trouble-makers were overly amorous Brits.

Doug (Ben Affleck) and his buddies rob banks but not in the charismatic way of Billy Bob and Bruce in Bandits; more like the Ex-Presidents in Point Break. No, they go in guns blazing and have their wicked way thanks to inside information supplied by Pete Postlethwaite playing a florist/criminal. In the first job of the movie, they decide to kidnap the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), blindfolding her and taking her out to a beach before letting her go and telling her to "walk until her feet get wet" before taking off her blindfold. Enter Don Draper, FBI agent. He thinks Claire let the baddies have the money all too easily and so puts her under surveillance. Doug, meanwhile, decides to track down Claire (he has her driving licence) and find out what she knows and what she told the law. Except, of course, they rather like each other and start dating--Claire doesn't recognise Doug's voice so it's all great. But then Ben wants to quit his criminal ways and run away to Floria.

His crony Jim (Jeremy Renner) isn't happy about this betrayal--he wants Doug to stay in Charlestown with him (Jim) and his sister Krista (Blake Lively), a slutty coke whore with a two-year-old daughter she claims is Doug's. Postleflorist isn't happy about Doug's desire to get the hell out of Dodge either; he doesn't trust the rest of the gang to execute his perfectly laid criminal plans without Doug. So Doug just has to do one last heist before he and Claire can run off into the sunset. Like that's going to go well...

Overall, I thought it was a solid thriller with some good action sequences and plenty of tension. Hall's performance reminded me of her role in Red Riding, in some ways, and Ben, directing himself, did a decent job, although I mainly had eyes for Don Draper. The most surreal scene was between Don and Serena van der Woodsen in a dive bar. Don wants information about Doug and co, and knows Serena has been trafficking. There's a nice little scene involving a $20 bill and references to "six inches" where Jon Hamm switches from the Draper charisma to "I'm a hard-ass FBI agent and I don't care how big your boobs are, you're still going down" in about two seconds flat. Later on, the charm returns when Don comforts an upset Claire with a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Serena's wardrobe was, interestingly, the same in The Town where she plays a seriously poor piece of white trash as in Gossip Girl where she plays a spoiled, rich girl from the Upper East Side. Old habits die hard...

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